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The Secret to Getting Things Done


This blog is for all of you who struggle with getting things done—whether you’re wildly busy or simply have little motivation to do the few important tasks you wish to accomplish. Remember, having alot to do is not necessarily the issue. It’s your inability to execute your (many or few) desires, that is, to go from intention to accomplishment.

Be a Schedule Builder, Not a To-Do List Maker by Nir Eyal will put you on the right track by shifting your mindset from checking off to-do lists to structuring your life to suit yourself. Insists Eyal, “It’s time to shed the constant stress and toxic guilt of not checking off enough little boxes and finally understanding why running your life with a to-do list is like running your life on Windows 95.”

His point is that we make to do lists to get things we’re ambivalent about doing done. After all, we’d do them if we really wanted to. This is similar to the argument I make about not using the word “should” to get yourself in gear. Should is a shame-based word promoting a shame-based identity. Eyal talks about imagining yourself as a successful doer of whatever it is you want to get done, not as a procrastinator. 

I can’t tell you how often clients tell me, “Oh, I’m a terrible procrastinator” or “I’ll put your homework idea on my to-do list but my last therapist said I’m avoidant, so I probably won’t do it.” It’s all about what you think of yourself and what you say about who you are. Eyal stresses the importance of changing your self-image. Use self-talk that tells you who you want to be, not who you were or are.

Read his article and see what he has to say about distraction and traction, then decide which one you want more of in your life. As he says, both “are actions we decide to take, not things that randomly happen to us.” Both are choices, so if you’re going to make them, do them consciously not via default mode. 

If you’re feeling panicky about giving up your to-do list, not to worry, Eyal has a better way to manage your time: by developing a schedule. Now, before you start getting worried about a structured life snatching away your precious free and fun time, hear him out: “Planning in advance how you intend to spend your time is the only way to know the difference between traction (what you said you would do) and distraction (anything else).”

Make a loose schedule for your “work” and “play” time. The process won’t work unless you include both parts of your life. Do it for a week and see how well it works.